Five years ago this October, Jennifer Ervin and I (and our ever faithful cheerleader, Anna Nash) opened the doors of Restore Counseling Ministries. I wish I could write the standard ministry narrative for our beginning: “God gave us a clear vision, a burning passion, and a wide open door. We joyfully walked through it and never looked back.” That’s not exactly how it happened.
Although the real story is not as inspiring, I believe that God often chooses to guide us in the least likely ways. Our path is usually not illuminated by a burning bush as much as it is lit by a small, persistent flame. Sometimes the idea for a new venture is neither welcome nor appealing. Neither Jenn nor I had a passionate desire to leave our jobs and embark on the unknown of a new ministry, yet we both sensed that NOT doing so would be disobeying God’s bidding. This was such a departure from the “normal” way we had always experienced a call from God. “Shouldn’t we feel excited and happy?” we asked one another. Apparently not. But what we did feel was peace. We knew that we were moving on a path that was laid out by Him rather than one that was manufactured out of our best efforts. And, despite all that occurred in the next year, that assurance never left.
There should be a list of phrases under the heading: Things People Say Right Before They Are About to Have Their Lives Turned Upside Down. If there was such a list, one of those phrases would be one we frequently said to one another and prospective board members prior to opening Restore, “We’ve served on the staff of a ministry for over ten years! How much harder can it be to run one, ourselves??” So often God uses our ignorance — or even our arrogance — to lead us into journeys we would never have chosen had we known the difficulty of what lay ahead.
The same week that we opened Restore, my son called from California to tell me that he was headed to the Doctor to have a lump under his arm checked out. By the end of that week, he had been diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. I was also in the middle of videotaping the teaching of the Idol Addiction series for production and national distribution. Jenn, meanwhile, was struggling to figure out the intricacies of non-profit bookkeeping. Our office location turned out to be a nightmare, and we had to find another location and move after only two months. I remember feeling so lost that I couldn’t even think of what questions to ask, much less figure out whom we could ask for answers and help.
But help came. One by one, God sent us exactly the people we needed, at the very time that we needed them, to get us through these seemingly insurmountable tasks. Even as I write these words, I find myself wanting to type faster to get past the memories of that incredibly difficult time. Most of those first months remain an awful, yet still miraculous, blur.
Have you ever had times like that? Times when you truly had no idea how you would ever emerge from the circumstances in which you find yourself? Scripture tells us that these are the precise conditions in which our faith grows, even though that growth is rarely something we feel at the time. Like a seed beneath the soil, you don’t often see the changes until one day you find that you are less attached to the circumstances of life turning out just so. You find yourself being less quick to offer a judgmental response to one who is struggling with God. Perhaps most miraculous of all, having faced some of your worst fears, you are less afraid and more at rest. And all of a sudden, it’s been five years and you think, “HOW did we get through that? ” And you worship when you remember.
He leads us step by step, from event to event. Only afterwards, as we look back over the way we have come and reconsider certain moments in our lives in the light of all that has followed them, or when we survey the whole progress of our lives, do we experience the feeling of having been led without knowing it, the feeling that God has mysteriously guided us. -Paul Tournier
Join us in thanking and praising God for what He has done! Thousands have now heard the gospel as the hope of restoration, and it all began with one tiny idea that He planted in the minds of two women who had absolutely no clue what they were doing, and if they did, they likely wouldn’t have done it! What is He planting in you?